God Uses Everything
Monday, September 14, 2020
Feast of the Triumph of the Cross
The genius of Jesus’ ministry is that he embraces tragedy, suffering, pain, betrayal, and death itself to bring us to God. There are no dead ends. Everything can be transmuted, and everything can be used. Everything.
It seems that everybody wants to take easy sides. It’s so consoling for the ego to have an answer; to be sure that my position is the final and only true answer. Yet, as Paul says, on the cross Jesus becomes the sin and the problem. He identifies with the wound, the pain, and the suffering (2 Corinthians 5:21). He does not stand apart from it but enters into it. What a paradox, what a mystery!
Jesus tells Peter, “Peter, you must be sifted like wheat. And once you have recovered, then you, in your turn, can strengthen your companions” (Luke 22:31–32). Until there has been a journey through suffering, I don’t believe that we have true healing authority. We don’t have the ability to lead anybody anyplace new unless we have walked it ourselves to some degree. In general, we can only lead people on the spiritual journey as far as we ourselves have gone. We simply can’t talk about it beyond that. That’s why the best thing we can do for people is to stay on the journey ourselves. We transform people to the degree we have been transformed. When we can somehow be compassion, not just talk about compassion; when we can be healed and not just talk about healing, then we are, as Henri Nouwen said so well, “wounded healers,” but not before.
It always comes through the wounding. What we do when faced with our deepest wounds determines whether there is authentic spirituality at work or not. If we seek to blame other people, accuse, attack, or even explain and make perfect, logical sense out of our wounds, there will be no further spiritual journey. But if, when the wounding happens, we find the grace and the freedom to somehow see that it’s not just a wound, but a sacred wound, then the journey progresses. Then we set out to find ourselves, to find the truth, and to find God.
It’s all about what each of us does with the wound. If we ourselves have never walked through some kind of suffering, whether betrayal, abandonment, rejection, divorce, loss of job, struggles with sexuality, we probably will give people “head” answers. We don’t touch or heal their hearts because our own have not been transformed. I don’t think it’s any accident that in most of Jesus’ healings, he physically touches people. He’s showing that healing cannot be done through the head, through explanations, theories and theologies, or quick, “logical” conclusions. It must somehow be a communication of life and love energy, held even at the cellular level.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), MP3 download.